There was a lot I didn’t know as a new mom. And there was a lot more I didn’t know about pumping. Unfortunately, I had to go back to work about 6 weeks after having my son but I continued to pump and breast feed until he was about a year old. This gave me plenty of time to figure the whole pumping thing out. I have a few tips I wish I’d known from the beginning that I’d like to share with you to help others along in their journey. Pumping is a lot of work but it’s definitely rewarding.
- The parts do not need to be sterilized every time you pump! I had a 15 min break to pump at work and I wasted the last 5 minutes of it every time washing and sterilizing my breast pump parts for the longest time. Then one glorious day I was informed that you can simply rinse the parts, put them in a large Ziploc, and throw them in the fridge until you’re ready to pump again. I researched it to make sure it was legit and it is in fact true, you only need to sterilize the parts once a day when you use the method above.
- Using a double breast pump is much more effective. Please don’t laugh at me, but when I first started pumping I thought “It seems the most natural to pump one breast at a time because that is how my baby would feed.” I figured I would do it that way because it seemed logical and it worked out okay for a while. Then, one day, I was running really late getting to my pump break so I had to be quick. I double pumped and realized not only did the milk let down much quicker but I got more milk in 5 minutes of double pumping than I would’ve gotten in 15 minutes of single pumping!
- If you can, keep your pump at your work during the work week or in your car so there’s no way you will forget to bring it. Always double check to make sure you have the right parts for the next day and put them by the front door ready to go the night before. Also, if you can, get a spare set of parts to keep in your car in case you ever forget to bring a piece. I did this and it saved me an hour of driving all the way home and back to work again when I realized I had forgotten 2 pieces one day. New moms don’t get much sleep which tends to make us forget things. So the less you have to remember in the morning, the better.
- You can rig your own pumping bra. There are many different options on Pinterest, but I used my nursing bra and a few hair ties and ba-da-bing ba-da-boom, I had a pumping bra. You can also make one out of an old sports bra and some scissors. Here’s a link below to the hack I used.
- Everyone has probably read that looking at a picture of your baby will help the milk let down. It’s true, but I found that taking a video of my baby breastfeeding or laying in my arms helped the milk release even faster.
- Plan your pumping. You will learn to plan your pump breaks around your work schedule. I had a car adapter for mine so I would get to work 15 min before work and pump in my car right before I went in so that I could work longer before having to pump (I work with one hour appointments every hour so I had to be very strategic about scheduling my pumping). If your supply is in good shape, try pumping right before going to bed and first thing in the morning to avoid having to pump in the middle of the night. I never knew about this one but Patricia (who pumped almost exclusively) told me she would try to plan her pumping sessions right after a hot shower. She told me the milk practically squirts right out.
- Patricia also suggested taking soy lecithin supplements to thin the milk if you get clogged milk ducts. I never tried that but I did take “My Breast Friend” supplements made with Fenugreek when I needed to boost my supply for a little while and it worked well.
- Relax! I remember freaking out sometimes thinking, “Oh my gosh! Why didn’t I get that much milk this time?! Am I drying up? I’m not going to have enough supply to keep breast feeding as long as I want!” Then I’d go on these online forums where all these other moms were freaking out too. Don’t stress, that can actually inhibit you from letting down. Our hormones are raging and sometimes the task at hand can seem like the world depends on it. Take it easy, do what you can and don’t stress about the rest.
I hope at least a few of these tips will help those new to pumping. It takes a bit of work and getting used to but it’s totally worth it (as long as it’s not stressing you out). I encourage any experienced pumpers reading this to share any tips we may have left out in the comments below. Happy Pumping!
Rachel (w/ some shared content from Patricia)